Unity and healing do not occur in the absence of accountability

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are asked to repent of our sins and our mistakes. Those of us who have gone through the repentance process know it is painful, it is humbling, and can often strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ. Repentance is one of the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel, according to the Fourth Article of Faith.

The process of repentance is taught to us as early in our Primary years and reinforced throughout our lives. The process if first, we must feel sorrow for our sins. We must acknowledge that we have done wrong and feel grief over our mistake. Second, we must confess our sins to Heavenly Father, an ecclesiastical authority, or to the person or entity we have wronged. Third, we promise that we will never commit that sin or transgression ever again. We must commit this to the entity we caused harm and to ourselves. Finally, we must make restitution for the harm we have caused and commit to living a better life. Restitution is varied but requires an apology.

The process of repentance has been on my mind a lot lately. A dear friend of mine has been in recovery from alcohol addiction for the past few years. She has worked the 12 steps meticulously and thoughtfully. She is committed to admitting her mistakes, making restitution for the harm she has caused others, and living a more honest, healthy life. I know that several of the steps have been personally painful for her as she has experienced feelings of shame and regret, but she knows it is necessary to complete those steps in order to remain sober. She is now showing up in her life instead of hiding from it.

Her strength and vulnerability have inspired me immensely. I’m in awe of her courage and fortitude. It’s been an honor to witness as her friend the commitment she has for holding herself accountable and making changes in her life for the better.

That is why I am so shocked that so many want to skip over all the necessary steps of repentance and get right to reconciliation. On January 6, 2021 citizens of the United States witnessed a violent mob attempt to stage a coup at the United States Capitol with the express goal to overthrow our democracy. Many people have made demands that we forget what happened just 2 weeks ago and unite and heal. They have no felt sorrow, confessed no wrongs, and have not made any restitution by apologizing. Utah’s own US Representative Burgess Owens, and LDS church member, called for unity while still blaming “the left.” This is what I have to say about that:

Unity and healing do not occur in the absence of accountability.

Jesus Christ knows this. The founders and administrators of addiction recovery programs know this. Why don’t we, who have learned the process of repentance since our childhoods and had it reinforced numerous times in our lives, know this? What it is about us that seeks to heal wounds without accountability? I have seen it in my own family as a relative who molested another family has demanded that we forgive him without ever apologizing or acknowledging the harm to his victim(s). I’ve seen it currently in my country where those who don’t want to be held accountable have demanded that they be forgiven instantly, and we “unite” with them.

When will we learn that there is no healing without accountability?

Image courtesy of Foundry Co from Pixabay 

Risa has a Masters and Bachelors degree in Social Work. She is a Mental Health Therapist who has worked in child abuse prevention, adoption, domestic violence and sexual assault trauma recovery. She is a mother of 4 and in her spare time she is a voracious reader, snarker, and subversive cross-stitcher.


  1. There also isn’t healing by only holding your opponents to account, either.

    Nearly everyone thinks that there has been a coup attempt, the disagreement is on who is behind it.

    • There’s only disagreement by those who don’t believe in facts. Everyone who has been arrested is a known and long-time trump supporter. Listen, I’m really sick and tired of being gaslighted by “alternate facts” and “fake news.” That day is over. Of course we need to hold ourselves accountable. That’s what the entire 2/3rds of this post was about.

  2. There seems to be a disagreement as to who should be held accountable for what. The individuals who unlawfully entered the Capitol will be held accountable for their unlawful actions. This is an incredibly small group that no one defends or protects. In fact, our laws already provide a punishment for these actions.

    On the other hand, no one is accountable or should repent for crimes that they did not commit. Unity required us to understand these basic truths:

    Political disagreement, including the misguided belief in unfounded theories, is not a fault requiring repentance and reparation as a condition for political unity.
    Democratic debates and the free market of ideas are not limited to discussing the nuances of a same philosophy or creed.
    The pluralism of ideas and a people’s tolerance for the existence of opinions that may shock their conscience are the cornerstones of any democracy.

    • It’s weird because I never said people should be held responsible for crimes they didn’t commit. Where did you get that idea?

      I disagree that believing in conspiracy theories that lead to a coup trying to overthrow democracy and trying to assassinate the Vice President and the Speaker of the House don’t need to be repented of. They absolutely do need to be repented of and these people need to be deprogrammed from the cult of personality that have led them to abandon all their values and integrity. Especially members of the LDS church. Those you can make you belief absurdities can make you commit atrocities, as Voltaire said.

      I also don’t know where you got the idea that I am against a robust debate and discourse. Unlike the people on January 6th, I don’t want to subvert democracy because an election didn’t go my way. When trump won we knitted hats and donated to Planned Parenthood. We didn’t kill 5 people, beat police officers, and try to murder our political opponents.

      • Risa,

        I should have clarified that my comment was not intended to antagonize the discussion or distort your views in any way.

        In the OP, you said:

        “That is why I am so shocked that so many want to skip over all the necessary steps of repentance and get right to reconciliation. On January 6, 2021 citizens of the United States witnessed a violent mob attempt to stage a coup at the United States Capitol with the express goal to overthrow our democracy. Many people have made demands that we forget what happened just 2 weeks ago and unite and heal. They have no felt sorrow, confessed no wrongs, and have not made any restitution by apologizing.”

        To be sure that I understand what you meant, my first questions are:

        (1) In your view, who exactly must feel sorrow, confess a wrong and apologize for the January 6th attack? The rioters? The people “believing in conspiracy theories” that you feel have led “to a coup trying to overthrow democracy and trying to assassinate the Vice President and the Speaker of the House”?

        (2) Who is “we” as in, “Many people have made demands that we forget what happened . . . and unite and heal”?

        (3) Is it your impression that these calls for unity imply that the Capitol rioters have done nothing wrong and that we should unite with them without holding them accountable? (Note that I agree that Mr. Owens’s call for unity is fueling division by spreading the “us versus them” mentality that led the American people where we are today.)

        (4) Who are the people “believing in conspiracy theories [that led to the Jan. 6th events and who] . . . . need to be deprogrammed from the cult of personality that have led them to abandon all their values and integrity”? How, in your view, should they be “deprogrammed” if they do not agree with your assessment that they abandoned all of their values and integrity? What are the value that they betrayed and how?

      • Not that anyone is owed my emotional labor to continually repeat myself, but here are my answer Alix.

        1) The rioters, trump, those who enabled trump over the years, those who enabled the rioters, the rioters who are threatening death to their own family members for turning them in.

        2) I reckon you haven’t spent much time on the internet or social media. Literally every conservative, especially LDS conservatives, are asking that trump be pardoned and we move on.

        3) Yes.

        4) The LDS people who I’ve seen sacrifice their values (Article of Faith #13) who have supported, enabled, and defended trump. Do you think there weren’t LDS members at the Capitol? A man came dressed as Captain Moroni with a “Title of Liberty” and was interviewed on TV.

      • Or perhaps some of your statements needed clarification?

        1) “[T]hose who enabled trump over the years, those who enabled the rioters.” That’s what I was worried about. I can see how anyone who voted for Trump or identifies as conservative could end up into these categories. But that’s what I was trying to explain in my first comment: in a democracy, other people don’t have to repent and apologize for their thoughts and ideas, even those that shock our conscience. They also don’t have to apologize for how they vote. Unity must be achieved despite those differences.

        2) OK but who is “we”? People who are not conservative?

        3) Most “conservatives” have no problem throwing criminals under the bus. You do not have to be united with the people who committed crimes on January 6th.

        4) If an LDS person committed a crime, they shall certainly repent (and be prosecuted). For the others, see my response at 1). But you did not answer my question about how they should be “deprogrammed,” in your opinion.

        To conclude, I will say that I have excellent reasons to believe that you are a good person. However, allow me to express that the us-vs-them mentality, together with the idea that those who are not “us” are transgressors in need of repentance and “deprogramming” is a sad combination.

        It is not compatible with a democratic system and it is an impediment to national unity. We do not have to agree with ideas that shock our conscience or support leaders who do not reflect our personal values. But we must absolutely integrate that others have a fundamental right to support ideas that shock our conscience or support leaders that do not reflect our values. They just can’t use violence or violate our rights to impose their views.

      • Alix,

        Thank you so much for deciding I’m a good person. You know so much about my character from one post and 2 comments I’ve made.

        As I’ve looked at your other comments on other posts it seems to me you are a conservative who doesn’t want to be lumped in with the people who stormed the Capitol. Sorry, but we’re all part of the problem. The media who didn’t call out trump for breaking every rule and norm of the office he held. The conservatives like Mike Lee (a Mormon) who said they could never vote for an amoral man like trump, and then did everything to keep in power that he could. Burgess Owens (a Mormon) who believes in QAnon conspiracy theories. Rep. Boebart who was tweeting out Nancy Pelosi’s exact location during the coup. The only conservatives I respect at this point are people like Mitt Romney who didn’t give trump carte blanch to the destroy the country.

        And as an (associate) therapist, I think all brainwashed people need to be deprogrammed and those people are the people are the QAnon believers who hold every conspiracy and falsehood that site purports as truth. The people who literally think Biden eats babies, Tom Hanks is involved in some child sex trafficking ring, that the government is lizard people, the people who would see the country destroyed just if it “owned the libs.” The people who think that an election was stolen and hundreds of documents would be released on Jan. 6th prove it.

        I agree in bipartisanship. I believe in meeting halfway. I believe in hearing and considering the other side. I’d be pretty terrible at my job if I didn’t believe in considering other opinions. But I will never, ever unite with fascists. I won’t unite with those who are white supremacist.

        This is an intersectional feminist space so if you don’t think things like white supremacy and systemic racism (comments you made on Sabina’s post) are a problem, this probably isn’t the blog for you.

      • Risa,

        I did not mean to offend you by presuming that you are a good person, although you are right that I don’t know you.

        You are also right that I have nothing to do with the Capitol rioters and I certainly disagree that we are all part of the problem. I don’t know if you are but I am clearly not. However I am not trying to change your mind.

        I am just trying to understand how you define the enemy with whom you cannot “unite” politically and reject violently. You identified a few individuals and some groups that probably include a lot of mentally ill people. I would not use the word “deprogram,” but I agree that there is a mental health issue in the US and that people should have access to better mental healthcare (especially if they are dangerous).

        The part that concerns me most is that there is still a group of anonymous persons that you do not “respect” and that is made of some conservatives, as well as “fascists” and “white supremacists” (unless they are all the same to you?). I am pretty sure that you and I do not have the same definition of “fascists” and “white supremacists” and I am pretty sure that your definitions are much broader than mine. Based on my own definitions, I will say that you do not have to “unite” with or even talk to the extremely small minority of true fascists and white supremacists in this country. You don’t even have to accept to work with them – many of them being in great need of mental healthcare.

        Finally, what I asked under Sabrina’s post is whether she could conceive that someone be against racism, political corruption and violence without adopting the concepts of “white supremacy” and “systemic racism.”

      • Alix,

        I couldn’t have been more clear that I believe we cannot unite as a country without accountability. You might not thinking impeaching trump is useful, but I believe in upholding the constitution. I’ve answered your questions, you just don’t like my responses.

      • Risa,

        I don’t need to like your responses. But yes, you have answered my questions and your answers were much broader and more complex than the idea that unity could be reached after Trump’s impeachment. But I digress. I have no problem throwing criminals under the bus, including Trump. What I said under Sabrina’s post is that impeachment proceedings against a civilian are questionable and of limited use, unlike criminal proceedings.

        Like you, I believe in upholding our Constitution. I believe in our political model, in freedom of speech and thought, in tolerance and respect for dissenting opinions and in harmony despite our differences. While I fully agree that dangerous elements must be isolated from the group, I strive to dissociate ideas and opinions that shock my conscience from the persons holding them. I believe that sometimes, even people who are extremely wrong can change and I believe that they will be more receptive to change if they feel accepted and heard as a person. There is great power in telling someone that they belong with you, no matter how much you disagree with them.

        I wish you well and hope that you will find the peace and unity you seek.

      • trump wasn’t a private citizen when he incited a coup and violence toward his political enemies. If Hillary Clinton can be dragged into a Senate trial for Benghazi 3 years later when she was a private citizen, why is trump exempt? He was impeached while he was president and Senate President McConnell refused to call the Senate back in session to start the trial. More political posturing. Let me ask if you were okay with Bill Clinton being impeached for lying under oath? Because if you were, why are you against a sitting president being impeached for inciting an insurrection attempting to overthrow democracy and an election?

      • Risa,

        I am not “against” Trump’s impeachment trial as if I cared. I am saying that the impeachment process is political. The only penalties available are removal from office and disqualification from holding any future federal office. Trump has been removed from office following the November 2020 election. As a private citizen, Trump may face criminal charges if the DOJ believes that he committed a crime. If he is found guilty of a political crime, he can be fined, imprisoned and may also be ineligible for federal employment. Which one do you think I would favor against a public official who committed a crime?

        To conclude on Bill Clinton’s impeachment, it made sense procedurally because he was not on his way out at the time.

        As to whether I would have supported his impeachment for lying about having an affair with his intern in connection with a sexual harassment case against him, the answer is absolutely not. If you are asking whether I wish he had been thrown in jail for whatever crime he may have been found guilty of, the answer is absolutely yes.

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